How does one learn to become an excellent preacher? And what does it mean to be an excellent preacher?
These questions are ones pastors (and their congregations) want to discover answers for. Preaching is an art; one that takes time and a lot of practice to hone. Preaching also says a lot about the person doing it: “Sooner or later, our sermons reveal our hearts and what we love” (11). To preach well is challenging and a gift.
Karen Schlack’s Mentoring with Morgan shares the journey she took to become a more seasoned preacher with the mentoring and support from Morgan, a former seminary professor. She includes stories from her time as a pastor, manuscripts of some of her sermons, and correspondence from Morgan with his wisdom.
While reading the book, I was struck by how fortunate Karen was to have a mentor like Morgan in her life. They corresponded every week about her sermons, sending multiple emails back and forth about each sermon. They first met in person then continued over email for years during Karen’s ministry. This book is a way of sharing the richness and depth of that mentoring experience with the reader, to spread the wisdom a little further.
She shares some practical advice, such as preparing sermons 2-3 weeks ahead of time and memorizing the manuscript (!!) so one can look at the congregation’s eyes and faces while speaking. Sermons should also be written for the ears primarily, and she recommends trying writing them by hand to slow the process down to “hear” the message more easily.
Karen also navigates issues that pastors often run into, such as how to address social justice issues to a congregation without coming across as political, how to address issues within the congregation during a sermon (hint: don’t), and how to leave or retire well. Theological wisdom from Morgan is also incorporated throughout the book. Here is a taste of the kinds of things he says:
The only real home to which God can bring us is our true self, the self that God created us to be. Until we realize this, we go on hoping that our false self has some kind of future, which it doesn’t… One reason why I believe in universal salvation is that I believe that the real me and the real you can never die. God will never give up on His original plan for our life…Mentoring with Morgan, p. 67
This compact read (just over 100 pages) is short but packed with sound advice and wisdom for preachers. I highly recommend this book for seminarians, preaching classes, or those who do public speaking in a religious context.
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This book review was done for Speakeasy and I received a free copy of the book in exchange for doing the review. Opinions of the book are my own.